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UCLA gymnastics takes 2nd in season-opener, breaks 2-year streak of 49-plus scores

Sophomore transfer Samantha Sakti made her debut as a Bruin Saturday night, posting a score of 9.950 on balance beam. Despite the score, No. 4 UCLA gymnastics took second place at the Collegiate Challenge. (Kristie-Valerie Hoang/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Cassidy Hunt

Jan. 5, 2020 5:06 p.m.

Correction: The original version of this article misspelled Valorie Kondos Field's name.

This post was updated Jan. 6 at 11:22 p.m. 

The Bruins opened their season with their lowest score since 2018.

No. 4 UCLA gymnastics came in second place with a score of 196.575 at the Collegiate Challenge powered by Under Armour on Saturday night in Anaheim, California. They fell to No. 1 Oklahoma – the reigning national champions – but managed to edge out No. 9 California and No. 22 Stanford. The meet was Chris Waller’s first as head coach.

The Bruins posted high scores on both vault and floor exercise, but it wasn’t enough to claim the top spot at the meet.

“I can’t say enough about how proud I am of what the team did today,” Waller said. “Sure, we made some mistakes, but the bottom line is, this program has been led by a legacy for 29 years, this is the first outing without (former head coach Valorie Kondos Field), and they came in confident.”

UCLA finished the first rotation – uneven bars – in the lead, backed by sophomore Margzetta Frazier’s personal best 9.950 and senior Kyla Ross’s 9.925. Each of the Bruins’ scores were at or above 9.800, and they secured an event score of 49.425.

Despite a pair of 9.950s from Ross and sophomore Samantha Sakti, the Bruins suffered two falls in their second rotation – balance beam – and posted a 48.500, the lowest score of the night by any team, on any event. The score snapped UCLA’s 123-rotation streak of scores at or above 49.

Sakti, who made her UCLA debut on Saturday night after transferring from William & Mary College, said that despite the team’s setback on beam, she enjoyed her first outing as a Bruin because of the community within her team.

“Today was so fun and I’m glad to have made this change with this amazing family,” Sakti said. “I’m proud of all my teammates. They all did amazing tonight, and that’s what helped me believe in myself up there.”

The Bruins won both of their last two events, but it wasn’t enough to return to the top spot and beat the reigning NCAA champion Sooners.

UCLA’s final 196.575 was the lowest score that the program has seen since its 2018 season opener on Jan. 6.

But, Waller said he isn’t focusing on the team’s score.

“(The score) doesn’t mean anything,” Waller said. “What I see is we had a great energy, we were really well prepared, and we’re starting out the season. This is a great thing. We’re going to keep getting better throughout the season so we’re peaking at the end of the season.”

The Bruins may have taken second place in the competition, but Ross claimed the top all-around score in the event with a score of 39.725 – outdoing the reigning NCAA All-Around champion, Oklahoma’s Maggie Nichols.

Ross said she was proud of the UCLA squad, which experimented with new lineups at the Collegiate Challenge because of a combination of injuries and new faces on the roster.

“Throughout the whole competition today, I feel like our energy never let down, and that’s something that helped,” Ross said. “There’s still so many people who are ready to come in, hopefully at another time. I think it’s really great that we are giving so many people opportunities to switch up the lineup and see how well they perform under pressure, so we can grow from there.”

The Bruins will host Boise State in their home opener on Jan. 12 at Pauley Pavilion.

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Cassidy Hunt | Sports staff
Hunt is currently a Sports staff writer on the gymnastics beat. She was previously a reporter on the women's soccer, women's water polo and swim & dive beats.
Hunt is currently a Sports staff writer on the gymnastics beat. She was previously a reporter on the women's soccer, women's water polo and swim & dive beats.
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